| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 12 (Reuters Health) - Although American
children still spend part of their days reading, they are
spending less time doing it for pleasure than decades ago, with
significant gaps in proficiency, according to a report released
The San Francisco-based nonprofit Common Sense Media, which
focuses on the effects of media and technology on children,
published the report, which brings together information from
several national studies and databases.
"It raises an alarm," said Vicky Rideout, the lead author of
the report. "We're witnessing a really large drop in reading
among teenagers and the pace of that drop is getting faster and
The report found that the percentage of nine-year-old
children reading for pleasure once or more per week had dropped
from 81 percent in 1984 to 76 percent in 2013, based on
government studies. There were even larger decreases among older
A large portion rarely read for pleasure. About a third of
13-year-olds and almost half of 17-year-olds reported in one
study that they read for pleasure less than twice a year.
Of those who read or are read to, children tend to spend on
average between 30 minutes and an hour daily with that activity,
the report found. Older children and teenagers tend to read for
pleasure for an equally long time each day.
Rideout cautioned that there may be difference in how people
encounter text and the included studies may not take into
account stories read online or on social media.
The report also found that many young children are
struggling with literacy. Only about one-third of fourth grade
students are "proficient" in reading and another one-third
scored below "basic" reading skills.
Despite the large percentage of children with below-basic
reading skills, reading scores among young children have
improved since the 1970s, according to one test that measures
The reading scores among 17-year-olds, however, remained
relatively unchanged since the 1970s.
About 46 percent of white children are considered
"proficient" in reading, compared with 18 percent of black
children and 20 percent of Hispanic kids.
Those gaps remained relatively unchanged over the past 20
years, according to the report.
"To go 20 years with no progress in that area is shameful,"
The report highlights some behaviors that have been tied to
children being more frequent readers. Those behaviors include
parents setting aside time to read with their children and
parents reading themselves to model good behavior.
(Reporting by Andrew M. Seaman; Editing by Michele Gershberg
and Dan Grebler)